Marketing personas banner image by Donncha Hughes

Looking to create a ‘customer persona’ to inform your marketing and promotion and wondering how? This post may be helpful as it provides an example. It then lists some questions to consider as you formulate a description of your Bullseye customer.

What is the purpose of creating a customer persona?

According to Seth Godin the US marketing expert (specifially his AI bot), the purpose of creating a customer persona is to identify the phychographics, worldview, and needs of your customers. This is in order to craft a story that engages and resonates with customers thereby focusing your marketing efforts. Personas inform your marketing strategy identifying the channels where potential customers spend their time.

Seth Godin has created an AI bot that has been trained on all 5 million words on Seth's blog and can now answer your questions

Starting Point: Who is the Customer?

Any discussion of marketing starts with No.1 – The Customer. This is on the basis that a business must have customers. It must provide a unique value to them in order to be profitable. Indeed, true insight of the customer must drive the approach to the market that each business must adopt. For startups the starting point in terms of business strategy … a big phrase which I simplify as ‘deciding what does your business do and what does it NOT do’ … is agreeing on who is the ideal target customer.

The starting point with Lean Startup, to include completing a Lean Canvas, is to outline the ‘burning problem’ being solved for a particular niche of customers. In identifying customer groups or segments it is important to analyse and distinguish between the Decision Maker, Budget Holder/ Purchaser, and the End User. For example, school books are purchased by parents for their children as probably stipulated or recommended by the school. A product solution and the accompanying message must work on a number of levels. Therefore understanding the mindset and attitude of all the stakeholders is important. This type of ‘domain knowledge’ is developed over time. This is why Steve Blank urges startup founders to ‘get out of the building’.

One Page CRM – Really Know your Customer

Michael Fitzgerald is the founder of Galway based One Page CRM. I have heard him speak many times on the One Page CRM journey. Several months after they launched their MVP, they started charging for it. The result was that a huge proportion of their ‘free trial’ customers left. But the ones who stayed loved it. This was the cohort that they grew. They added to the features that this niche valued paving the way for international success in a very competitive space.

Customer Personas example

I found what I consider an excellent example of Customer Personas. There is a great description of customer demographics, attitudes and motivations in a Bord Bia document, ‘Irish Foodservice: Channel Insights November 2013’. The report outlines four consumer typologies developed following a RED C/Mintel survey of consumers. I would still consider the 2013 report a must-read for anyone in the foodservice business.

Foodservice insights - Bord Bia 2013

The report provides the following classification of Food Service Outlets:

• Quick Service Restaurants (QSR) = 37% share
• Pubs/ Cafes/ Coffee Shops = 32%
• Full Service Restaurants = 11%
• Hotels and Accommodation = 6%
• Other Commercial

Combined the Quick Service Restaurant (QSR is Fast Food) channel and Pubs, Cafes and Coffee Shops account for 69% of a market valued at €1.85 billion.

Four Foodservice Consumer typologies

The part of the Bord Bia report (pages 126 to 133) that caught my eye was the Customer Typologies. The typologies identify choice of foodservice venues, frequency, and spend and aim to gain insights into the demographic characteristics, and attitudes/motivations of each of the consumer groups.

Consumer Typologies Foodservice

A key theme of the report is that understanding the how and why of consumer behaviour is critical for all Foodservice operators. My conclusion is that a foodservice business must pick its customer (one of the 4 segments) and tailor its offering to meet their needs fully in order to compete in the marketplace. The business will of course pick up customers in some of the other groups depending on circumstances. But if it tries to please all 4 customer types at the same time, it will end up serving none properly and the brand will be diluted.

1. Who are Service Oriented?

The service level in a food establishment is the primary motivating factor for the choice of venue. These consumers expect a high service level as evident by food establishments with table service being their venue of choice.

• Men or women
• 55-65+
• Self employed/ full time education/ retired
• Single
• No children in the household

The service level in a food establishment is the primary motivating factor for choice of venue. These consumers expect a high service level as evident by food establishments with table service being their choice of venue.

2. Characteristics of All Rounders

Over a third of All-Rounders have visited every type of food outlet in the last three months. 50% had been to an ethnic, American style and pizza/pasta restaurant in the same period. Over 34% of All-Rounders have eaten in a work restaurant within this period, representing the highest consumer grouping that eats at their place of work.

• 18 to 34
• Men or women
• Employed full time/ part-time
• Urban
• Single
ABC1

Eating out is an integral part of an All Rounders lifestyle. These consumers view food as an extension of their lifestyle and food is part of their social activities, with some 55% having purchased food at a sporting event/concert. All Rounders absence of dependents facilitates their above average spend on eating outside the home.

The report concludes that ‘Bigger portions and online meal promotions are two motivating factors to further increase their engagement with differing foodservice channels’. They enjoy different types of cuisine. They are open to trying new dishes and concepts as illustrated through their high engagment (over 50%) with ethnic, American and pizza/pasta food types.

  3. Kids Rule

This is the segment that really struck me as being very accurate (when i first read it several years ago). I could have said SNAP – and it was the inspiration for the title of this post.

Messy child

The report explains that fast food outlets are the most popular establishment with Kids Rule consumers (38% have visited a fast food outlet in the three month period ending in September 2013).

• Men or women
• 18-44
• Employed full time/ retired
• 2 children in the household

As the name suggests Kids Rule are consumers with children living in the household and as such their purchase decisions are driven by children. Decisions on where to eat outside the home are driven by suitability of venue for their children.

The report finds that 61% of Kids Rule consumers stated the presence of kids‘ meal options on a menu was their primary motivating factor when looking at which venue to visit. Family orientated restaurants will have most appeal to this consumer grouping. Free Wi-Fi and larger portions were two secondary factors that influenced purchase decisions.

4. Value Foodies

A quarter of Value Foodies have eaten in a table service restaurant, coffee shop/sandwich bar, pub or hotel in the three month period up to September 2013.

• Women
• 55-65+
• C2DEF
• No children in the household

Food establishments are a form of entertainment for Value Foodies and they place emphasis on helpful staff. Visibility of local produce is important to 76% of Value Foodies however, they do not expect to pay a premium for inclusion of local produce on a menu. These consumers are also health conscious and would like to see healthier choices on menus.

The report adds that their price consciousness is evident as 45% of Value Foodies are motivated to visit an establishment by meal deal offerings that include a meal deal with food and drink. In addition, 40% of Value Foodies use online meal promotion websites. They also stated this was a motivating factor in their decision-making process on where to eat out. This reflects their savvy nature and quest for a quality meal at an affordable price.

Foodservice report conclusions:

The report summary (final page p.142) states that operator’s overreliance on heavy discounting (daily deals were extremely popular) has contributed to low retention rates, in many instances making diners more promiscuous with their venue choice – being the opposite of customer loyalty – noting that consumers are not fooled by low prices when seeking value for money experiences. It concludes that the ability of Foodservice operators to increase their spend per occasion will be dependent on how successfully they address key consumer trends and needs:

  • The need for convenience: Quick Service Restaurants
  • The need for hand held hot and cold offerings: On-the-go, leisure & travel
  • The need for daytime treats: Coffee shops, B&I (Business and Industry)
  • The need for informality and meal deals: Casual dining
  • The need for excitement and innovation: FSR (full service restaurants), hotels
  • The need for nutritionally balanced foods that meet set meal budgets: Education, Defence Forces

Further growth of the foodservice market will rely on operators reigniting consumers‘
enthusiasm for spending on eating out by injecting excitement back onto menus,
revitalising the overall dining out experience and positioning eating out of the home
as an integral activity when engaging in leisure activities.

Update: Irish Foodservice Market & Consumer Insights 2022

This Bord Bia Irish Foodservice Market + Consumer Insights report was published in November 2022. It showcases the findings from Bord Bia’s end of year Foodservice Market and consumer research. It quantifies the size of the market by sector and forecasts developments for 2023.

The 2022 Bord Bia Irish Foodservice Market + Consumer Insights report

The report presents a number of overarching trends and findings based on consumer research. It finds that while increased prices pose a challenge to all consumers, that increased costs do not affect everyone to the same degree. As such they present a three segment model identifying three specific and distinct consumer cohorts (page 18):

Three Customer Segments for Foodservice

Page 18 of the report outlines three specific, distinct and equally split consumer cohorts:

  • Cost Constrained’ are more likely to be C2DE (the three lower social and economic groups in a society) females in the post family life stage, living in Northern Ireland. [UK Social Grades Explained by IPOS] Cost constrained consumers would like to be dining out of home but are held back by their finances and it looks as thought this will continue to be the case for the next six months. They represent 3 in 10 (34%) of the population and are those consumers most likely to be feeling the pinch.
  • “Re-emerging Socialisers” are more likely to be ABC1 adults, aged 45+ in the post family life stage (ABC1 a consumer from one of the three higher social and economic groups, which consist of people who have more education and better-paid jobs than those in other group). Re-emerging Socialisers are reconnecting with the out of home foodservice opportunity. Delivering a memorable (premium) consumer experience with great staff is still important to this cohort of diners. They represent 3 in 10 (34%) of the population and are seeking a more formal and indulgent dining experience.
  • “Foodservice Champions” are more likely to be ABC1 adults aged under 45 in the pre and young family life stage, living in Dublin. Footservice Champions have wilfully adopted the change in foodservice and are blending casual and formal dining in and out. They are embracing the full range of possibilities. Operators should look to provide options that tap into their changing attitudes and behaviours. Sustainability initatives are more important to Foodservice champions (p.57). They represent 3 in 10 (33%) of the population and are blending dining in and home delivery.

The cohorts outlined above are very insightful emphasising the over riding impact of rising food price inflation.

Other Insights from 2022 report

The report identified a tension in Menus between simplification v innovation.

With so much concern around cost, operators have mostly simplified their menus and there has been limited innovation in 2022.

Critical Factors Facing Foodservice and Implications for the Industry p20

Additionaly, it highlighted that post Covid, operators will need to decide how much emphasis to place on take-home, home delivery and online /app ordering.

The other interesting insight was describing Thursday as the new Friday as more people choose to work from home a few days a week. Also discussed was the outlook for the ‘breakfast market’.

Creating a Bullseye Persona

In my training sessions, I assist and challenge participants to devise a Customer Persona by identifying their Bullseye Customer. A business could end up with a few such profiles. Here are the questions that I prompt business owners to answer as they formulate their customer descriptions. Point 7 – now asks about use of social media. You could also ask consumers about job role if that is relevant.

Questions to describe your customer

‘How to build Buyer Personas for use in your Marketing Communications?’ is a brilliant post on Tweak Your Biz by Diarmuid O’Connell. It outlines six steps on how to create the persona. When you fully understand your customer you will be a better position to communicate with them.

put all this detail together and when you’re preparing your marketing blurb, keep this persona in mind and write like you are writing directly to them. Because you are.

Consumer Trends Report – Euromonitor

EuroMonitor’s ‘Top Ten Global Consumer Trends 2023‘ is a great report for identifying consumer shopping motivations so that you can plan creative marketing campaigns.

Top 10 Global Consumer Trends 2023 Euromonitor

Customer Segmentation – Go niche  

While the overall goal of a business may be to build a product for as large a market as possible, the advice is not to start there. Instead go niche.

So, what’s the secret to product-market fit? Go niche. By conducting proper market segmentation, and focusing on a specific niche to start, you have much better odds of success. This approach greatly improves your chances of gaining initial traction in one segment, and once you have that traction, expanding becomes much easier.

Blogpost: Lack of Product-Market Fit is Preventable – thinkgrowth.org

Customer segmentation is the process of grouping customers according to how and why they buy. Its purpose is to identify specific segments. You can then design a marketing mix that precisely matches the expectations of these target customers. This Product-Market fit article on thinkgrowth.org provides a great example of segmentation using the scenario of creating an App for merchants on the Amazon platform.

This Medium article, ‘What Theme Parks Teach Us About Market Segmentation‘ is very interesting. The author outlines how pricing based on segments allows business to extract value from customers.

The image above is from a fascinating article about how Roblox is reaching adults, helping brands and building a metaverse.

Castlemine Farm

In 2014, I attended a workshop organised by Galway Rural Development on Farm Diversification. Brendan Allen gave a talk on Castlemine Farm, Roscommon where he used the Business Model Canvas to introduce and explain their business. He explained how he and his brother had deliberately changed their business by reference to every element of the canvas over a period of a few years. He had realised that a normal farm of the size owned the family was not sustainable. As such they had no control of all the value-creating building blocks of their canvas, namely: The Customer, the customer relationship, the product, and the value proposition. Farmers are price takers in a market which is dominated by processors and big retailers. 

Castlemine Strategy Change

They set out to change all these elements. Firstly, the customer was no longer going to be the food processor but the end consumer and the chef. They have several customer groups, each of whom they understand intimately. Brendan presented a detailed but very concise description of each of their customer segments. The over-riding value shared by each group was a desire to buy consistently good quality farm produced food products. Castlemine found (and benefited from) an ingrained desire by people in Dublin to buy directly from farmers. The end result speaks for itself … 12 people employed in a well managed, thriving enterprise. Lots of hard work!

The moral of this story and this post is that understanding the customer and creating the persona is the crucial starting point in defining your strategy. My challenge to you is to craft a persona for each of your customer segments.

Can you describe your customer such that they self-identify i.e. put their hands up to say, ‘That’s Me’?

I hope that you find this post useful as you set about this task!

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